This is my first true foray into Mexican film, and 2018 Toronto International Film Festival entry 'The Good Girls' inspires some confidence that this is a cinematic landscape I will want to return to. Set in 1982, 'The Good Girls' follows the affluent Sofia (Ilse Salas, 'Güeros') and her family as a financial crisis strikes Mexico.
From the opening scene, Sofia's quality of life is established as one that wants for nothing - cars as birthday gifts are considered common, and Sofia perceives much of her worth as being filtered through the status of her party guests and her tennis-playing country club circle. These are not friends, these are her peers, her competition, the kind of women you wouldn't share where you got your most recent outfit from for fear of being upstaged. Then the appearance of a black moth in Sofia's living room - an omen of bad luck - sends things on a downward spiral. Her husband Fernando's (Flavio Medina, 'Being or Not Being') uncle Javier (Diego Jáuregui, 'Black Sheep'), through which Sofia and Fernando have inherited their fortune, is stepping down from his company as the economy faces uncertain times. The impact this has on Sofia and Fernando's life slowly creeps in: first their water supply is cut off, then Sofia's cards are declined. Company meetings and connections dry up, and it's not long before Sofia must start to resign herself to the possibility her days of whisky drinking and spa treatments are numbered.
WATCH: 'THE GOOD GIRLS'
In a film all about appearances (and keeping them up), it should come as no surprise that 'The Good Girls' is stunningly shot, constantly emphasising the luxury of the main characters' lives. Their jewellery gleams, and the camera settles on shots both close and wide of manicures and dresses. The films visual aesthetic is as stubborn as Sofia herself; determined for life to go on as normal, Sofia continues to shop for dresses - shoulder pads are a must - unwilling to part with her couture or her facial creams. The textures of not only her outfits, but the lush décor of her home and the country are shot in a way that makes them feel as part of Sofia as her own skin. The most minute details are given the utmost importance, mirroring how Sofia and her friends consider minor social faux pas as the end of the world. Despite her desperation to cling to normalcy, Salas never plays off Sofia as spoiled or entitled; her way of life is simply a part of her, a means to survive her social landscape. Her manicures and blow waves act as a therapy of sorts, during which Sofia speaks via voiceover to the audience, a glimpse behind the flippant face she tries to maintain around everyone.
'The Good Girls' can't quite commit to any one style long enough to be effective.
The film's sparse score, consisting mostly of rhythmic claps for comedic scenes and harmonised vocals sustaining one note during more tense moments, are inconsistent in their effectiveness. Unfortunately, neither comedy nor drama is a genre 'The Good Girls' wants to conform too; like Sofia, it wants to have its cake and eat it too. The film also suffers from a third act that never quite lands the way it wants to. It's somewhat humorous watching Sofia's dignity falter yet still participating in conversations over such trivial matters as outfits for upcoming social events. Her poker face is one for the ages. There is also no satirical edge that the film could so direly benefit from; the audience is expected to take the lush lifestyles seriously.
Ultimately, 'The Good Girls' can't quite commit to any one style long enough to be effective, and the film is shot in a way that is far more compelling than its content. Perhaps, like Sofia, the film only prides itself on its appearance.